Two of the largest utilities in the oil-rich kingdom of Qatar have revealed ambitious plans to develop 1 GW of solar PV capacity via a recently formed joint venture (JV).
Qatar Petroleum and Qatar Electricity and Water Company (QEWC) created the JV at the turn of the year to explore solar opportunities as part of a $500 million initiative.
Despite controlling the majority of Qatars liquefied natural gas reserves which are some of the largest in the world Qatar Petroleum is eager to diversify its, and the countrys, energy mix away from hydrocarbons, and in QEWC has a willing collaborator in the move to embrace solar energy.
A start-up capital fund is to be created to pursue the solar venture, with QEWC controlling 60% of the fund, and Qatar Petroleum to operate a 40% stake.
Speaking on the sidelines of the annual QEWC shareholder meeting, Fahd al-Mohannadi of QEWC told Reuters that the JV will invite international companies to back 40% of each solar project via a competitive tender process.
Further details on exactly when and how the solar projects will take shape were not forthcoming. pv magazine has contacted QEWC for more information.
"We decided to do it based on the fact that producing power from solar is cheaper than buying gas from the international market," Mohannadi said.
QEWCs business development director Abdulsattar al-Rasheed did reveal, however, that the setting up of the JV should be completed by the end of 2016 or "in early 2017".
In seeking ways to diversify its energy mix, Mohannadi confirmed to Reuters that Qatar had ruled out the introduction of wind and nuclear power because the countrys land mass is too small. Coal, too, is also being viewed as a no-go.
Qatars economic success in recent decades has been underpinned by its gas and oil reserves, but as domestic thirst for energy grows the nations rulers are keen to diversify the energy sector in order to protect its economy from the oil price shocks that have been so damaging to Qatars Saudi neighbors.
With high levels of solar irradiation, PV is increasingly viewed as the most viable route towards a cleaner and lower-cost energy mix for Qatar. Thus far, the nation has been slow even in Middle Eastern terms to embrace solar energy, but the recently inaugurated 300 MW module production facility in Doha by Qatar Solar Energy (QSE) promises to kick-start domestic interest in the sector.